Dieting has become a national obsession. We are confronted with magazine photos of anorexically thin adolescent girls and are told this is the ideal standard of beauty. In fact, statistics show that the average model today weighs twenty pounds less than her counterpart of thirty years ago.
Women have rushed to embrace any diet that promises quick, easy, painless weight loss, especially if this can be done without exercise. Companies make millions off of our collective desire to lose extra pounds. At the same time, the news is now full of warnings against products that increase the metabolic rate, but have been found to cause heart attacks, elevate blood pressure, or increase blood sugars. Other diets have been branded “fads” or “dangerous.”
How does a person decide what method of weight loss is safe, and what isn’t? How do you wade through the reams of diet information available every time you pick up a magazine at the supermarket, or discuss diet with a friend?
There is good news and bad news. The good news is that weight loss is possible, without side effects or health hazards. The bad news is that it is not easy, painless, or without effort, despite the claims of ads.
The first thing to understand is why people gain weight. There are several reason that possibly include a sedentary lifestyle, eating high fat or processed foods, eating larger quantities (who hasn’t been tempted to order “super sized” at Mcdonalds?), and limiting our exercise. The food we consume is less nutritious, so our bodies are starved for vitamins and essential nutrients.
Other reasons for weight gain can include heredity, hormonal problems, water retention, certain medical problems, and a natural slowing of a person’s metabolic rate as they get older.
So how can extra weight be lost, and safely? Here are some pointers to get you started.
How To Make It Work
1. Determine your healthy weight. People often have unrealistic expectations of their weight. Most dietitians will look at the BMI (body/mass index) as an indication of whether a person is overweight. Ask your doctor to help you determine your ideal weight.
2. Set a goal for weight loss. It is highly recommended that you discuss this with your doctor first. If you have a medical condition, it then becomes imperative that you do this. One of the best people to talk to about weight loss is a registered dietitian. A dietician will sit down with you on a one-to-one basis and create a plan customized to your personal weight loss goals.
There is a wonderful site online, created by a registered dietitian for those who are interested in weight loss. It allows you to type your weight loss goals into a cyber calculator, and gives back a recommended number of daily calories based on your activity level and age. The link is at www.dietitian.com and includes good, sensible advice on eating and nutrition.
Be reasonable in your goals. If you want to lose weight, be aware that the maximum safe weight loss is considered roughly 8 pounds a month, or two pounds a week. Crash diets not only fail, they lower your body’s metabolic rate and make it more likely you will regain fat when you go off the diet.
3. Choose an eating plan. Notice I didn’t say diet. The best method of weight loss is a change in lifestyle, not a drastic diet that you follow for a week or two. This means following recommendations based on the RDA for adults, and eating a well balanced diet based on the food pyramid. (Remember that from grade school? It has changed a lot in the past few years, and now includes more whole grains, vegetables, and fruits.)
You cut down on the fats and sweets, and increase your intake from the high fiber groups to lose weight. This is the essence of 99% of the “diets” that you read about in popular magazines.
4. Increase your metabolic rate. Raise your metabolic rate — but not with dangerous supplements or pills. The secret to raising your metabolism is simple and free; it’s called exercise. When a person exercises for twenty minutes, they will raise their metabolic rate for the next three hours and will be burning fat.
Tying It All Together
Now you know the basics of healthy weight loss. It involves increasing your activity level, eating a balanced diet while cutting down on calories from fat and sweets, and setting appropriate goals. Use the links and tools in this article to help you determine and reach your objective. By following these recommendations, you can safely achieve and maintain a healthy weight.